By the Book: Copy editor and writer Laura Godfrey’s book highlights

Interview conducted by Jennifer D. FosterLaura Godfrey

Have you ever wondered what fellow editors like to read? We have, too. In our interview series “By the Book,” we get the inside scoop on editors’ all-time favourite books, their top style guides, and what their alternate-universe careers would be.

Tell us about your current job, Laura, plus a little-known quirky fact about you.

Well, I currently have two jobs. My full-time job is as a newspaper copy editor and page designer at Pagemasters North America (owned by The Canadian Press) where I work on the Toronto Star desk drawing pages, editing for print and online, and writing headlines and other display copy. I work at this job five evenings a week—newspaper editors work odd hours preparing the paper for the printer—which actually works out well, because it gives me time to do freelance work during the day.

My freelance job is as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, the New York–based magazine about the book publishing industry. I get to write about everything from literary awards to Indigo’s quarterly reports to new Canadian children’s books—I’m excited about Hark! A Vagrant creator Kate Beaton’s first picture book, The Princess and the Pony, which comes out at the end of June.

For nearly two years, I’ve also been volunteering as editor-in-chief of this blog, BoldFace, and it’s been a pleasure working with other volunteers to transform what was previously a print newsletter into an interactive online space for editors. Now that I’m stepping down, the role will be taken over by the very talented Nadiya Osmani.

And a quirky fact about me? Hmm. Ever since I first saw the enormous wingspan of a great blue heron landing in my parents’ backyard (trying to fish in their koi pond), I’ve been absolutely fascinated with large birds and their prehistoric look (my favourite movie is Jurassic Park). I must have taken hundreds of pictures of the brown pelicans hanging around the ocean when I visited Key West. And I was over the moon when we visited the Flamingo Gardens wildlife sanctuary where there is an open aviary that lets you get up close with herons, pelicans, egrets, and dozens of other types of birds.

What is your all-time favourite book and why?

There are so many different genres that I can’t pick just one. I’ve always loved The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger because it’s a beautiful and inventive love story with an element of magic realism (and as is usually the case, the book is much better than the movie). In non-fiction, I was moved by Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun about the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for one Syrian-American family. And I don’t read a ton of comics, but a couple of series that have stood out for me include Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim and Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals—which is much less terrible than the title suggests, and it manages to be very funny and mature at the same time. Lately, I’ve been reading pretty much everything with Zdarsky’s name on it.

What is your favourite editing manual, style guide, or other book about editing/writing?

This one’s easy: My number-one style guide has always been The Canadian Press Stylebook (accompanied by Caps and Spelling). I first studied this guide in my Professional Writing program at York University, and I made use of it as an editor on the campus newspaper, Excalibur. Since then, with a few exceptions, I have worked for various magazines, newspapers, and online publications that follow Canadian Press style (with some variations for house style). We have dozens of well-used copies lying around the office, and the online subscription is also very useful.

A couple of other books about editing that I’ve enjoyed include The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller, editor of The Chicago Manual of Style’s online Q&A, and Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, the new memoir/grammar guide by New Yorker copy editor Mary Norris.

What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t an editor and why?

Curled up in a ball somewhere, wondering where I went wrong in life. I think my grade school English teachers would attest to the fact that this is where I’m supposed to be.

Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto-based freelance editor and writer, specializing in book and custom publishing, magazines, and marketing and communications.

This article was copy edited by Whitney Matusiak.

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